Six Tips for Year-End Gifts to Charity

Many people give to charity each year during the holiday season. Remember, if you want to claim a tax deduction for your gifts, you must itemize your deductions. There are several tax rules that you should know about before you give. Here are six tips that you should keep in mind:

  1. Qualified charities. You can only deduct gifts you give to qualified charities. Use the IRS Select Check tool to see if the group you give to is qualified. Remember that you can deduct donations you give to churches, synagogues, temples, mosques and government agencies. This is true even if Select Check does not list them in its database.
  2. Monetary donations.  Gifts of money include those made in cash or by check, electronic funds transfer, credit card and payroll deduction. You must have a bank record or a written statement from the charity to deduct any gift of money on your tax return. This is true regardless of the amount of the gift. The statement must show the name of the charity and the date and amount of the contribution. Bank records include canceled checks, or bank, credit union and credit card statements. If you give by payroll deductions, you should retain a pay stub, a Form W-2 wage statement or other document from your employer. It must show the total amount withheld for charity, along with the pledge card showing the name of the charity.
  3. Household goods.  Household items include furniture, furnishings, electronics, appliances and linens. If you donate clothing and household items to charity they generally must be in at least good used condition to claim a tax deduction. If you claim a deduction of over $500 for an item it doesn’t have to meet this standard if you include a qualified appraisal of the item with your tax return.
  4. Records required.  You must get an acknowledgment from a charity for each deductible donation (either money or property) of $250 or more. Additional rules apply to the statement for gifts of that amount. This statement is in addition to the records required for deducting cash gifts. However, one statement with all of the required information may meet both requirements.
  5. Year-end gifts.  You can deduct contributions in the year you make them. If you charge your gift to a credit card before the end of the year it will count for 2014. This is true even if you don’t pay the credit card bill until 2015. Also, a check will count for 2014 as long as you mail it in 2014.
  6. Special rules.  Special rules apply if you give a car, boat or airplane to charity. Contact Skowronski & Skowronski for more information.

Disclosure

We inform you that any tax advice provided or implied on this post (including any attachments) is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer.

While the information contained in this post is believed to be reliable, we cannot guarantee its accuracy or completeness.

Deducting Moving Expenses

If you move because of your job, you may be able to deduct the cost of the move on your tax return. You may be able to deduct your costs if you move to start a new job or to work at the same job in a new location. Here are some tips about moving expenses and your tax return.

In order to deduct moving expenses, your move must meet three requirements:

  1. The move must closely relate to the start of work.  Generally, you can consider moving expenses within one year of the date you start work at a new job location. Additional rules apply to this requirement.
  2. Your move must meet the distance test.  Your new main job location must be at least 50 miles farther from your old home than your previous job location. For example, if your old job was three miles from your old home, your new job must be at least 53 miles from your old home.
  3. You must meet the time test.  After the move, you must work full-time at your new job for at least 39 weeks the first year. If you’re self-employed, you must meet this test and work full-time for a total of at least 78 weeks during the first two years at the new job site. If your income tax return is due before you’ve met this test, you can still deduct moving expenses if you expect to meet it.

If you can claim this deduction, here are a few more tips:

Travel.  You can deduct transportation and lodging expenses for yourself and household members while moving from your old home to your new home. You cannot deduct your travel meal costs.

Household goods and utilities.  You can deduct the cost of packing, crating and shipping your things. You may be able to include the cost of storing and insuring these items while in transit. You can deduct the cost of connecting or disconnecting utilities.

Nondeductible expenses.  You cannot deduct as moving expenses any part of the purchase price of your new home, the cost of selling a home or the cost of entering into or breaking a lease.

Reimbursed expenses.  If your employer later pays you for the cost of a move that you deducted on your tax return, you may need to include the payment as income. You report any taxable amount on your tax return in the year you get the payment.

Address Change.  When you move, be sure to update your address with the IRS and the U.S. Post Office. To notify the IRS file Form 8822, Change of Address.

 

Disclosure

We inform you that any tax advice provided or implied on this post (including any attachments) is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer.

While the information contained in this post is believed to be reliable, we cannot guarantee its accuracy or completeness.

 

Job Hunting Expenses

If you look for a new job in the same line of work, you may be able to deduct some of your job hunting costs.

Here are some key tax facts you should know about if you search for a new job:

Back-to-School Tax Credits

Are you, your spouse or a dependent heading off to college? If so, here’s a quick tip: some of the costs you pay for higher education can save you money at tax time. Here are several important facts you should know about education tax credits:

Basic Tax Tips about Hobbies

Millions of people enjoy hobbies that are also a source of income. Some examples include stamp and coin collecting, craft making, and photography.

You must report on your tax return the income you earn from a hobby. The rules for how you report the income and expenses depend on whether the activity is a hobby or a business. There are special rules and limits for deductions you can claim for a hobby. Here are some tax tips you should know about hobbies:

Get Credit for Child and Dependent Care This Summer

Many parents pay for childcare or day camps in the summer while they work. If this applies to you, your costs may qualify for a federal tax credit that can lower your taxes. Here are 10 facts that you should know about the Child and Dependent Care Credit:

1. Your expenses must be for the care of one or more qualifying persons. Your dependent child or children under age 13 usually qualify.

2. Your expenses for care must be work-related. This means that you must pay for the care so you can work or look for work. This rule also applies to your spouse if you file a joint return. Your spouse meets this rule during any month they are a full-time student. They also meet it if they’re physically or mentally incapable of self-care.

3. You must have earned income, such as from wages, salaries and tips. It also includes net earnings from self-employment. Your spouse must also have earned income if you file jointly. Your spouse is treated as having earned income for any month that they are a full-time student or incapable of self-care. This rule also applies to you if you file a joint return.

4. As a rule, if you’re married you must file a joint return to take the credit. But this rule doesn’t apply if you’re legally separated or if you and your spouse live apart.

5. You may qualify for the credit whether you pay for care at home, at a daycare facility or at a day camp.

6. The credit is a percentage of the qualified expenses you pay. It can be as much as 35 percent of your expenses, depending on your income.

7. The total expense that you can use for the credit in a year is limited. The limit is $3,000 for one qualifying person or $6,000 for two or more.

8. Overnight camp or summer school tutoring costs do not qualify. You can’t include the cost of care provided by your spouse or your child who is under age 19 at the end of the year. You also cannot count the cost of care given by a person you can claim as your dependent. Special rules apply if you get dependent care benefits from your employer.

9. Keep all your receipts and records. Make sure to note the name, address and Social Security number or employer identification number of the care provider. You must report this information when you claim the credit on your tax return.

10. Remember that this credit is not just a summer tax benefit. You may be able to claim it for care you pay for throughout the year.

IRS Circular 230 Disclosure

Pursuant to IRS Regulations, we inform you that any tax advice provided or implied on this post (including any attachments) is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer.

While the information contained in this post is believed to be reliable, we cannot guarantee its accuracy or completeness.

Does Getting Married Affect My Taxes?

Taxes may not be high on your summer wedding plan checklist. But you should be aware of the tax issues that come along with marriage. Here are some basic tips that can help keep those issues to a minimum:

Name change. The names and Social Security numbers on your tax return must match your Social Security Administration records. If you change your name, report it to the SSA. To do that, file Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card. You can get the form on SSA.gov, by calling 800-772-1213 or from your local SSA office.

Change tax withholding.  A change in your marital status means you must give your employer a new Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate. If you and your spouse both work, your combined incomes may move you into a higher tax bracket.

Changes in circumstances.  If you receive advance payment of the premium tax credit in 2014, it is important that you report changes in circumstances, such as changes in your income or family size, to your Health Insurance Marketplace. You should also notify the Marketplace when you move out of the area covered by your current Marketplace plan. Advance payments of the premium tax credit provide financial assistance to help you pay for the insurance you buy through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Reporting changes will help you get the proper type and amount of financial assistance so you can avoid getting too much or too little in advance.

Address change.  Let the IRS know if your address changes. To do that, file Form 8822, Change of Address, with the IRS. You should also notify the U.S. Postal Service. You can ask them online at USPS.com to forward your mail. You may also report the change at your local post office.

Change in filing status.  If you’re married as of Dec. 31, that’s your marital status for the whole year for tax purposes. You and your spouse can choose to file your federal income tax return either jointly or separately each year. You may want to figure the tax both ways to find out which status results in the lowest tax.

Note for same-sex married couples: If you are legally married in a state or country that recognizes same-sex marriage, you generally must file as married on your federal tax return. This is true even if you and your spouse later live in a state or country that does not recognize same-sex marriage.

IRS Circular 230 Disclosure

Pursuant to IRS Regulations, we inform you that any tax advice provided or implied on this post (including any attachments) is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer.

While the information contained in this post is believed to be reliable, we cannot guarantee its accuracy or completeness.

Keep Your Records Safe in Case Disaster Strikes

Some natural disasters are more common in the summer. But major events like hurricanes, tornadoes and fires can strike any time. It’s a good idea to plan for what to do in case of a disaster. You can help make your recovery easier by keeping your tax and financial records safe. Here are some basic steps you can take now to prepare:

1. Backup Records Electronically.  Many people receive bank statements by email. This is a good way to secure your records. You can also scan tax records and insurance policies onto an electronic format. You can use an on-line service, external hard drive, CD or DVD to store important records. If you have a free email service with abundant storage, you can also attach a PDF of a document and email it to yourself. Be sure you back up your files and keep them in a safe, preferably off-site, place. While a fire may only affect your home, a tornado or hurricane affects a wide area. If that happens you may not be able to retrieve your records.

2. Document Valuables.  Take photos or videos of the contents of your home or business. These visual records can help you prove the value of your lost items. They may help with insurance claims or casualty loss deductions on your tax return. You should store them with a friend or relative who lives out of the area.

3. Update Emergency Plans.  Review your emergency plans every year. Update them when your situation changes. Make sure you have a way to get severe weather information. Have a plan for what to do if threatening weather approaches.

4. Get Copies of Tax Returns or Transcripts.  Visit IRS.gov to get Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return, to replace lost or destroyed tax returns. If you just need information from your return, you can order a free transcript online or by calling 800-908-9946. You can also file Form 4506T-EZ, Short Form Request for Individual Tax Return Transcript or Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return.

IRS Circular 230 Disclosure

Pursuant to IRS Regulations, we inform you that any tax advice provided or implied on this post (including any attachments) is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer.

While the information contained in this post is believed to be reliable, we cannot guarantee its accuracy or completeness.

Facts about Amended Tax Returns

Did you discover that you made a mistake after you filed your federal tax return? You can make it right by filing an amended tax return. Here are eight things to know about filing an amended tax return.

1. Use Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, to correct errors on your tax return. You must file an amended return on paper. It can’t be e-filed.

2. You usually should file an amended tax return if you made an error claiming your filing status, income, deductions or credits on your original return.

3. You normally do not need to file an amended return to correct math errors. The IRS will automatically make those changes for you. Also, do not file an amended return because you forgot to attach tax forms, such as a W-2 or schedule. The IRS will usually send you a request for those.

4. You usually have three years from the date you filed your original tax return to file Form 1040X to claim a refund. You can file it within two years from the date you paid the tax, if that date is later.

5. If you are amending more than one tax return, prepare a 1040X for each year. You should mail each year in separate envelopes. Note the tax year of the return you are amending at the top of Form 1040X. Check the form’s instructions for where to mail your return.

6. If you use other IRS forms or schedules to make changes, make sure to attach them to your Form 1040X.

7. If you are due a refund from your original return, wait to receive that refund before filing Form 1040X to claim an additional refund. Amended returns take up to 12 weeks to process.

8. If you owe more tax, file your Form 1040X and pay the tax as soon as possible. This will reduce any interest and penalties.

IRS Circular 230 Disclosure

Pursuant to IRS Regulations, we inform you that any tax advice provided or implied on this post (including any attachments) is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer.

While the information contained in this post is believed to be reliable, we cannot guarantee its accuracy or completeness.